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Intel, Marriott make room for Wi-Fi

The chipmaker and the hotelier announce a campaign to promote high-speed wireless access to the Internet at about 400 hotels in the United States, Canada and Europe.

Marriott International and Intel on Thursday announced a campaign to promote high-speed wireless access to the Internet at about 400 hotels in the United States, Canada and several countries in Europe.

Marriott, based in Washington, D.C., said the co-marketing agreement with Intel will include advertising and direct mail that inform travelers of its wireless network service built on 802.11b technology, more commonly known as Wi-Fi.

The marketing campaign will tout the availability of the hugely popular Wi-Fi technology at 400 Marriott, Renaissance, Courtyard, Residence Inn and other hotels in the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany and Canada. Marriott said it already offers Wi-Fi Internet access at more than 200 of its hotels and will add wireless access at an additional 200 this spring.

More importantly for Intel, Marriott will hold in-hotel orientations to familiarize guests with "hot spot" access locations, identifying areas that have been tested for compatibility with Intel's mobile technology. Hot spots are locations where wireless Web access is available to the public, sometimes for a fee and sometimes at no cost.

The joint marketing campaign coincides with the impending launch of Intel's Centrino family of chips and related products designed to build wireless capabilities into notebook PCs. Centrino includes the Pentium-M processor, a chipset and a Wi-Fi module.

"In preparation for the launch of Intel Centrino mobile technology, Intel is working with companies such as Marriott to verify wireless compatibility and drive awareness of hot spots and wireless technologies that will change how and where people compute," Ann Lewnes, director of the Intel Inside campaign, said in a statement.

Earlier this month, Intel said it would work with hotel chain Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide to make wireless Internet access available in more than 150 Sheraton, Westin and W hotels in the United States.

As hot spots proliferate in cafes, hotels, airport lounges and city neighborhoods, companies from various industries have been seeking ways to provide Wi-Fi services to business travelers, who are more likely to be willing to pay for wireless Internet access. Many hot spots offer free access, but security concerns often keep business travelers from tapping into the network.

"High-speed Internet access is one of the most common requests at our worldwide reservations department, and customers are selecting hotels based on its availability," Lou Paladeau, a Marriott vice president who oversees technology business development, said in a statement. "High-speed access is increasingly available at work and at home, and business travelers aren't willing to compromise a fast connection when they travel."

Other companies tapping into the Wi-Fi boom include telecommunications players such as T-Mobile, as well as network equipment makers including Cisco Systems. Boeing's wireless technology subsidiary Connexion by Boeing is also introducing in-flight Internet service. American cities are among this disparate group experimenting with Wi-Fi as a way to revive moribund downtowns that have lost business to suburban malls for decades.

The Wi-Fi explosion has also led to an entire cottage industry that offers services to set up free public or corporate wireless systems.

In this case, Marriott is working with STSN, a Salt Lake City company, to set up the wireless service in its hotels' lobbies, meeting rooms and public spaces.

Travelers with laptops that have wireless capability will pay $2.95 in the United States for the first 15 minutes, and 25 cents for each additional minute.